India’s identity scheme The magic number

Discussion in 'Economy & Infrastructure' started by Nagraj, Jan 19, 2012.

  1. Nagraj

    Nagraj Regular Member

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    INDIA’S economy might be thriving, but many of its people are not. This week Manmohan Singh, the prime minister, said his compatriots should be ashamed that over two-fifths of their children are underfed. They should be outraged, too, at the infant mortality, illiteracy, lack of clean drinking water and countless other curses that afflict the poor.

    Poverty has many causes, and no simple cure. But one massive problem in India is that few poor people can prove who they are. They have no passport, no driving licence, no proof of address. They live in villages where multitudes share the same name. Their lack of an identity excludes them from the modern economy. They cannot open bank accounts, and no one would be so foolish as to lend them money.

    The government offers them all kinds of welfare, but because they lack an identity, they struggle to lay hands on what they have been promised. The state spends a fortune on subsidised grain for the hungry, but an estimated two-thirds of it is stolen or adulterated by middlemen. The government pays for an $8 billion-a-year make-work scheme for the rural poor, but much of the cash ends up in the capacious pockets of officials who invent imaginary “ghost workers”.

    Suppose those thieving middlemen were obliged to deliver grain, not to poor people in general but to named individuals who could confirm receipt by scanning their fingerprints? And suppose those ghost workers had to undergo an iris scan before being paid? If poor Indians each had an identity number tied to unique biometric markers, it would be much harder for the powerful to rob them. Sceptics will scoff that the Indian government is far too incompetent to implement such a scheme. But the sceptics are wrong.

    ID-ing the benefits

    This month India’s unique identity (UID) scheme will enroll its 200 millionth member, having had almost none only a year ago (see article). By the end of this year, says Nandan Nilekani, a former software mogul who runs the project, the tally could stand at 400m, a third of all Indians. The scheme is voluntary, but the poor are visibly enthusiastic about it. Long lines wait patiently in the heat to have their fingerprints and irises scanned and entered into what has swiftly become the world’s largest biometric database.

    For the poor, having a secure online identity alters their relationship with the modern world. No more queueing for hours in a distant town and bribing officials with money you don’t have to obtain paperwork that won’t be recognised if you move to another state looking for work. A pilot project just begun in Jharkhand, an eastern state, will link the new identities to individuals’ bank accounts. Those to whom the government owes money will soon be able to receive it electronically, either at a bank or at a village shop. Ghost labourers staffing public-works schemes, and any among India’s 20m government employees, should turn into thin air. The middlemen who steal billions should more easily be bypassed or caught.

    That is just the start. Armed with the system, India will be able to rethink the nature of its welfare state, cutting back on benefits in kind and market-distorting subsidies, and turning to cash transfers paid directly into the bank accounts of the neediest. Hundreds of millions of the poor must open bank accounts, which is all to the good, because it will bind them into the modern economy. Care must be taken so mothers rather than feckless fathers control funds for their children. But most poor people, including anyone who wants to move around, will be better off with cash welfare paid in full. Vouchers for medical or education spending could follow.

    Companies—and their customers—stand to gain from the system too. Mr Nilekani talks of India stealing a march on other countries if firms have an easy, secure way of identifying their customers. Banks will be more likely to lend money to people they can trace. Mobile-phone firms will extend credit. Insurers will offer lower rates, because they will know more about the person they are covering. Medical records will become portable, as will school records. Ordinary Indians will find it easier to buy and sell things online, as ordinary Chinese already do. Just as America’s Global Positioning System, designed for aiming missiles, is now used by everyone for civilian navigation and online maps, so might UID become the infrastructure for India’s commercial services.

    They’ve got your number

    India’s scheme holds three lessons for other countries. One is that designing such a scheme as a platform for government services, not security, keeps the costs down and boosts the benefits. Another is to use the private sector. From the start, Mr Nilekani harnessed the genius of Indians abroad, including a man who helped the New York Stock Exchange crunch its numbers and one of the brains behind WebMD, an American health IT firm. Both public and private actors (mostly tech firms that enroll participants and process data) are paid strictly by results. The cost of enrolling each person is a little over 100 rupees ($2). Many other poor countries could afford that.

    And the third is that, alas, even a brilliant idea has enemies. India’s stubborn home minister, P. Chidambaram, is now blocking a cabinet decision to extend the UID’s mandate, which is needed for the roll-out to continue. Parliamentarians and activists have raised worries over India’s lack of strong privacy and data-protection laws; they also complain about the weak legal basis for the scheme.

    These complaints have some validity, but not enough to derail the scheme. For instance, India plainly needs better data-protection laws, but even if the existing rules remained unchanged, the threat to liberty would be dwarfed by the gains to welfare: to people who live ten to a room, concerns about privacy sound outlandish. Some of the resistance is principled, but much comes from the people who do well out of today’s filthy system. Indian politics hinge on patronage—the doling out of opportunities to rob one’s countrymen. UID would make this harder. That is why it faces such fierce opposition, and why it could transform India.
     
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  3. Nagraj

    Nagraj Regular Member

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    guys give it a go .
    It's a good read.
     
  4. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    They had taken the details over a year and a half ago, but I wonder what happened thereafter!

    None of us have this Unique ID Card.

    It really must be Unique or Maybe we have become non citizens! :)
     
  5. mylegend

    mylegend Regular Member

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    I'm pretty surprised after reading the Economist magazine about the issue, it is strange that what makes it so hard to assign a I.D. to every citizen. China has law that require every citizen to get a I.D. at age of 16. You just need a I.D. office in every town... Put it this way, if you need a I.D. to get to college, you will get one...
     
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2012
  6. p2prada

    p2prada Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    Can you tell me where in China do you get your fingerprints registered and your eye scanned?

    This isn't some regular joe govt ID. This is a universal ID. It's like assigning a number to a person rather than identify him by name.

    The scale of this project is the biggest in the world, for obvious reasons. China is yet to start this kind of system. Actually India is the first country to set up such a system where any citizen in the country is identified by his retinal scan. There are 200 million patrons with IDs assigned to them and plans are to get half our population assigned within the next 3 years. After that, the govt will release services on a large scale.

    There is little or no scope for corruption once you realize you will need your fingerprints or iris scanned in order to avail a govt facility. Middlemen are eradicated in the process.

    Btw, no real ID card will be issued. You will know your number and it is your body which is the ID card. So, if anybody is expecting a smart card like your driver's licence or PAN card, then forget it. You can't hand over your identification to some one else.

    This system was subject to debate in the US Congress only last year. The whole world is watching India implement this scheme.
     
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  7. mylegend

    mylegend Regular Member

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    I do notice how it work since I have read other article about it. However, does most Indian do not have unique name? China use a combination of Hukou system and I.D. to give individual unique identification.... It is not much of technology, but it is much easier to enforce and cost much less.
     
  8. ganesh177

    ganesh177 Regular Member

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    Some people have already received the ID cards.
    It will look like this

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2012
  9. Nagraj

    Nagraj Regular Member

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    actually they have started only now in jharkhand i am sure or rather i hope they complete this in next 3-5 years.
     
  10. Param

    Param Senior Member Senior Member

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    This scheme should be thrown into the Dustbin.
     
  11. Param

    Param Senior Member Senior Member

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    I thought the Govt was rethinking the project. I believe the opposition too raised some concerns against this project.
     
  12. p2prada

    p2prada Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    Chidambaram was opposed because of security concerns. The opposition is not against the UID project per se. It is more to do with the kind of cyber security needed along with tougher security laws.

    Personally I haven't committed to the project because of the same reasons. But things may change soon enough. Eventually every one will have to enroll, voluntary or not.

    This type exists in most countries. The Americans have their Social Security Number which is unique for each individual and is assigned by the govt after birth.
     
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  13. p2prada

    p2prada Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    Hmm. And I was sure there would be no ID cards. Oh! Well. Something extra to carry around now.
     
  14. H.A.

    H.A. Senior Member Senior Member

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    The scheme is in the process of implementation in Andhra Pradesh as well...
     
  15. steel

    steel Regular Member

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    Buddy they have took my fingerprints of my all fingers,took photo of both eyes from close and a pic of mine about four months before but i haven't received any card till date..just i have a photocopy of reciept
     
  16. ejazr

    ejazr Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    It was a very efficient process in Hyderabad near my place. Our family got the card in about 3 months which considering other govt. services is quite fast.
     
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  17. niharjhatn

    niharjhatn Regular Member

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    That's a pretty stupid comment... having an uncorruptable, unforgeable universal ID acceptable all over india will be a god send.

    The streamlining of access to govt services will be immense, and issues like proof of identity when trying to illicit identity when using such services as well as private ones, like banks, will be solved.

    Imagine if every bank account has to be linked to at least one ID card, companies/trusts/partnerships must have the board/ceo/trustees etc. linked to their accounts. If its properly enforced, deniability over illegal activity will cease.

    Also the use of such cards in voting during elections etc... it will be much easier to enforce!!
     
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2012
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  18. niharjhatn

    niharjhatn Regular Member

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    The issue is not ease of use, but an ID card as described is much more secure, so exploitation, whether it is intentional or unintentional, cannot happen.
     
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  19. Nagraj

    Nagraj Regular Member

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    it's such a good concep and considering its record government is doing the best even then some people are whining :lol:.
    chalo jab bhagwaan bhi sab ko khush nahi kar sakta to GOI ki kya aukat hai :rofl:
     
  20. ejazr

    ejazr Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    UIDAI gives numbers to highlight ‘low cost’, ‘accuracy’ - Indian Express

    There was no shadow of the controversy over the collection of biometric data under the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) scheme today as its project coordinators rattled numbers to show that it was a success.

    By Saturday morning, 12 crore Aadhaar numbers would have been generated and by March, the programme would have delivered on its original mandate of registering 20 crore people, it was announced. It will need the government’s nod to go on further.

    Addressing a press meet at the UIDAI Technology Centre in Bangalore, Pramod Varma, chief technology architect for UIDAI, said: “We are now the largest and the fastest biometric identification system in the world in terms of processing. We process 10 lakh enrolments and trillions of biometric matches every day.”

    “We have found that 99.86 per cent of the population can be uniquely identified by our biometric system. And the accuracy is improving because of our competitive model of working with three different companies,” said Srikanth Nadhamuni, head of technology at UIDAI.

    “So far, the UIDAI has been able to get things done at the lowest prices ever,” added Ram Sewak Sharma, director general and mission director, UIDAI. “Abroad, the cost of enrolling a single person with iris and fingerprint scans is Rs 20. When we put out tenders, we got quotes for Rs 2.75.”

    Incidentally, questions have been raised about the security of data collected by the UIDAI as well as duplication of its cost with the National Population Register programme. “We have demonstrated scale,” said Nilekani. “Now we will wait for the Cabinet's decision once we hit 20 crore.”
     

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